二. Curate
Anthony Stavrianakis
Paul Rabinow
Curation: Narrative & Assemblage

We’ve recuperated and have objects: it needed equipment to make it happen. We’ve displaced haltung and we now realize we have more work to do before starting the next stage of the project. How did we come to this realization? Partially, we were generating terms, but which were not quite satisfying. We were looking for the complement term to haltung, but nothing really clicked. We were looking for such a complement term because we knew we had exited and thought there was a stage before re-entry and so needed a term to orient us to this moment

We did not know what this stage was or how exactly to characterize it. One candidate appeared more or less spontaneously, figuration. Since the destination was or less known, anthropology, the return to the diagnostic and figuration seemed appropriate and the mode that seemed appropriate was narration.  The reason for this self-evidence was that not only did we know that the future object was anthropos, but that the mode we would approach it in would be metaleptic. Hence, a return to narrative theory, Genette, seemed to provide a source of terms. The first section of Genette is about temporal ordering, exactly the problem that we would shortly identify as a curatorial problem.

Curation: The Primacy of Narrative

We produced a narrative of a possible order of inquiry, which we noticed preceded any work in the studios. As an exercise we assembled friends to listen to an initial narrative, which seemed to take form naturally and they attested to its coherence. This reaction was both reassuring and discomforting, as we had only begun thinking about this topic and knew the narrative we presented was preliminary. From this exercise we decided to retain the primacy of narrative and figuration as problems for curation to address.

What is curation? The work of turning objects into artifacts.  We wondered about the mood or voice of the mode of subjectivation (which is curatorial).  What are you like when you are doing this curation work? What does that become in a narrative?

We knew that the curation process required assembling. How did we know this? We explored in the abstract the mode of action of the traditional curatorial activity as an exercise to see whether our intuitions about narrative and assemblage were proximate to this activity as we understood it. Satisfied that there were resonances with the mode of action we were also satisfied with the etymological resonance; the Curate, cura, curator.

Curation of a Term: Discordancy

We decided that curation was characterized by preparatory work for future inquiry. Here as in the recuperative stage there is a logic - in the Deweyan sense - that guides the transformative crafting. In addition to analytic distinction making there is a phenomenological description of logical practices. The latter became a topic of our conversation as we attempted to get clearer about what curating is and what its function should be given the problem we were addressing. By phenomenology we are closer to Hegel than Husserl in that our object is the temporal development of a form through narration. The object is composed of both the "hard work of the concept" and the actuality of experience.

We’re following discordancy from a concept, to experience, to  object, to an artifact. It had been assembled with haltung, and then disassembled from haltung during recuperation.  Once the work of recuperation has prepared the discordancy for future transformation, the question became what form would that future transformation take? We un-cautiously posited that the relevant term was 'artifact'.  It followed logically that the work of turning discordancy into an artifact must mean something like, re-assembling it through narration to make it available for the next practice of inquiry.

Why is it that discordancy, which went from concept to experience, to object becomes a term available for narration once the object-ness is worked over? Because the referent is no longer ‘our’ experience and that’s freeing, and it can be initially assembled with a different mode of subjectivation. The telos here is to make the object available for narration, which will then make it possible to conduct further inquiry. Narration is important because that’s the way that temporal order is established discursively, hence logically in both Hegel's and Dewey's sense.

 

Metaleptic narrative: Artifacts

We’re preparing terms, such as discordancy, in such a manner that they become available for narration. The question then arises, what kind of narration?  For a variety of reasons our advanced candidate was metaleptic. Why? In part because the narrator and the audience are implicated and interpolated in the narrative unfolding. In part because contingency and virtuality are provided with an order in a metaleptic narrative. In part because a thematic of discordancy entails loss and recuperation that can be narratively projected and function so as to make audience and author come to a realization of their own engagement in the stakes of the narrative construction.

Why is this mise-en-assemblage and mise-en-narrative form curation and not writing? Partly that it is not purely discursive, we’re doing multiple things with the objects produced, not just putting them into words.

At some point we will have to turn narrative artifacts, which only circulate narratively, into objects for anthropological inquiry.

However, before we get ahead of ourselves, it is logical given our objectives that this narrative be worked on  so that it can function equipmentally in an assemblage.

From Narrative to Assemblage

During the narration process we remark that we had frequent recourse to a form of assemblage that we wanted to function equipmentally. What does that mean? It means -- in machinic terms -- having friends in a state of 'availability', already primed in a position and capable of providing the  type of criticism "solicited", i.e.  in sync with the overall project. Further discussion or reflection was welcomed later.

The assemblage is an essential part of the curation process. To listen to versions of the narrative was the preliminary form of testing as to whether the terms, their order and their significance was plausible. That is to say, the initial form of curatorial presentation.  Such a practice enables discrimination, for example, in the initial narrative presented the object of the narrative was a 'figure', provisionally called artifactual anthropos, that could provide the anthropological object and destination we were looking for. Working equipmentally with our assemblage enabled us to objectify our preparatory work (of objectification and narration) and thereby to make informed judgments as to the pertinence, order and significance of our narration. Artifactual anthropos might well prove to be pertinent at the figural level, but during curation it was out of place and in the wrong order. That being said, artifact making is really what was appropriate. Not to go up and forward to the figural level but to work over the objects of experience as artifacts and to find a narrative mode in which to do this.

There is a transformative practice in curation where these objects have been transformed once, by taking them out of previous setting, stripping them of haltung and affect, and then we can see them as objects and concepts, and narration is what turns them into terms and that it the objective of the next stage of work: hence that is why equipmental assemblage work is not studio work, which was designed to operate before the work of narrative.